Friday June 4th 2021 Edition 60
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and e-vents from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN’? (as someone once sang)
Finding the way through may need AI
The past few days – with a Bank Holiday/Half term holiday – have been predictably quiet. But then large parts of the legal community have been spending time either in Cornwall or in cancelling their forthcoming holidays to Portugal. Nonetheless the two big issues creating noise around the legal industry have remained the same – the move to hybrid working in new-style offices and the fierce ‘imperative of now’ to increase diversity. Both of these, almost certainly, will leave their mark on the legal industry far into the future.
But something else also happened this week – the launch by Thomson Reuters of its new contract review and analysis tool HighQ Contract Analysis. This uses machine learning, so it is claimed, to answer the specific questions legal professionals want to address in an easy-to-read report. According to the publicity ‘HighQ Contract Analysis provides an integrated experience [enabling users to] leverage HighQ collaboration, workflow and visualization tools to conduct further analysis and generate reports on top of the extracted data.’
Sounds impressive and, at a time when associates are said to be labouring under unbearably stressful workloads, maybe it is AI which is going to be the real game-changer. Works 24/7, ‘from anywhere’ and no D&I issues – yet.
In this week’s edition
+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Risky Business – the Rise of the ‘Risk & Compliance Analyst’
Moving Time – Space is contracting and time expanding
‘Team Days’ at Eversheds
The Money Talks – When it comes to Diversity at Gowling WLG
An All-In agenda at A&O
+ LEGAL ANALYSIS OF THE WEEK – ON DATA TRANSFER from HOGAN LOVELLS
+ CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
WHERE NEXT FOR LITIGATION FUNDING? asks IAN MADEJ
+ APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK from Signature Litigation and Browne Hacobson
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Risky Business – the Rise of the ‘Risk & Compliance Analyst’
Image – Courtesy of Noun Project
The increasing role of paralegals has been a marked trend over recent years – often including law graduates on their first step towards a traineeship. But Eversheds Sutherland has come up with a twist on that theme. The firm has announced that it will be offering from its Leeds office what it believes to be the first formal scheme whereby graduates can rotate around different parts of its Risk and Compliance team (including financial crime, regulatory compliance and data, contracts and commercial and business acceptance) over a two year period, so that they develop into ‘truly rounded compliance professionals’,
As the firm comments, it “Doesn’t want to restrict itself to qualified lawyers and miss out on a huge group of diverse graduates with the right skills and attributes, and a desire to build a career in this area.” So recruitment will be of people with a minimum 2.1 degree and who on completion of the programme will be offered a permanent position as a ‘Risk & Compliance Analyst’ and support in obtaining a relevant professional qualification.
As the firm emphasises “Please note that candidates will not qualify as a solicitor” – which is as it should be. The complexity of the legal infrastructure within which business works today means that clients need more then just legal advice. Progressive law firms appreciate that.
Moving Time – Space is contracting and time expanding
Already law firms are responding to the new ways of working – WFH, WFA etc. – by re-setting their plans for premises. One of the latest is DWF which has just adopted a ‘new global office strategy’ inspired by the expressed wish of its people to spend no more than three days a week in the office (and often less than that).
The impact of this can be seen immediately in Glasgow where the local team will soon be moving to the eighth floor of The Sentinel, a fully refurbished office block.
“It is a genuinely exciting opportunity to move into a newer, fitter-for purpose environment embracing some of the newer habits that have been formed over the last twelve months,” said Paul Pignatelli, Glasgow office managing partner. “The pandemic has unsurprisingly led to more people working from home than ever before. During this time the DWF Executive and Glasgow partners discussed how our office requirements and working habits have changed and the ways in which this affects our clients’ and our own future working needs. With our colleagues also indicating that they wanted to split their working week by spending between 2-3 days a week from an office, we decided to move to a hybrid-working model and relocate our office to The Sentinel. As a result we have been able to reduce our square foot space by half and begin designing our new office environment that caters for a new way of working.” We’ll be looking out to see how it works out.
‘Team Days’ at Eversheds Sutherland
Meanwhile – and there is a pattern here – Eversheds Sutherland has also announced that it will be operating from mid-September with a hybrid working model for its ten UK offices. Again the majority of its people will be coming into the office on just two to three days each week (including at least one “team day”). The remainder of the week will be spent working remotely.“We have devoted a huge amount of time and effort to this, seeking feedback from across the firm, at all levels and from all roles,” said Keith Froud, Managing Partner. “We have also spoken to clients about their anticipated needs. We believe that two to three days each week is the right balance, and this will include at least one “team day” where most if not all of a team will attend to promote face to face connectivity.”
The new regime will be phased in over the next few months and become the norm in September.
The Money Talks – When it comes to Diversity at Gowling WLG
Ever upwards to career success at the University of Birmingham?
Of course, the other big theme of the year has been the drive to open out the legal industry to a more diverse group of entrants. And that means not only bringing people in but ensuring that there are routes for progression.
Latest to make announcements in this area is the Gowling WLG (UK) Charitable Trust and the University of Birmingham which have partnered to launch a new ‘Black Talent in Law’ Bursary scheme which aims to support better access to the legal profession for black students at Birmingham Law School (BLS). Students on the scheme will be provided with work placement opportunities at Gowling WLG, on-going mentoring support from lawyers at the firm, and also paid financial contributions in their second and final year of their studies at BLS. Three students will be the first to enrol on the scheme in September.
“We are excited to launch this scheme in partnership with Birmingham Law School through the Gowling WLG (UK) Charitable Trust.,” said Andy Stylianou, Chair of Gowling WLG (UK) LLP and the firm’s lead on diversity and inclusion. “The scheme will offer the students a fantastic opportunity to gain invaluable experience working within a busy international law firm while completing their studies and to be financially supported along the way. Black lawyers are under-represented in corporate law firms and we are committed to doing our part to address this and to promote the progression of black students to careers at our firm and the legal profession more widely.”
Again, let’s see what it looks like in five years time. And in ten years time let’s hope it’s no longer needed.
An All-In agenda?
Meanwhile A&O has got D&I going across a wide front. It has just launched ‘All In’, its ‘global commitment to becoming a more diverse and inclusive organisation’, which is the next step in the firm’s push to create ‘an inclusive culture that celebrates and embraces difference’. The firm has also published an article: Reflecting on a year of work on Race & Ethnicity, which takes a ‘hard look’ at the progress it is making to create racial equity in the firm and assess the many challenges that lie ahead.
All of this builds on its 2020 initiative the Black Aspiring Solicitors Mentoring Scheme which was set up in partnership with the organisation ‘Aspiring Solicitors’ to provide a mentorship programme and bespoke workshops to a small group of black or black-mixed heritage students.
A&O also runs a range of programmes in partnership with Rare recruitment, and hosts an independent ‘inclusivity series’. Students wishing to register their interest in the Black Heritage Insight Programme can do so here.
LEGAL ANALYSIS OF THE WEEK
Today the European Commission is due to adopt revamped data transfer tools with more legal and privacy safeguards to allow companies to transfer data securely around the world
Here’s what lawyers at HOGAN LOVELLS had to say on the legal implications of this.
“[The] announcement on ‘standard contractual clauses’ (SCCs) will be a game-changer with important implications for data transfers between EU and non-EU countries,” said Eduardo Ustaran, Co-Head of the firm’s global Privacy and Cybersecurity practice. “All existing contracts relating to data transfers will need to be revised. The key difference between the old and new SCCs will be the new modular approach, so organisations will need to identify the correct module in light of their role. The new clauses will also be packed with provisions triggered by the so-called ‘Schrems II’ ruling from July 2020, which requires businesses to assess the potential for government access to data and consider carefully whether there are sufficient data protection measures in place.”
Meanwhile,Ivan Shiu, a partner specialising in commercial and privacy litigation, added, “Companies should also see the new rules as an opportunity to review their suppliers’ and vendors’ contracts and cybersecurity credentials, as failing to comply with the new standards could lead to heavy penalties. If a company gets it wrong, quite apart from the business and reputational risks, the company runs the risk of facing claims in what is a growing wave of data-related class actions pending before the UK courts.”
CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
WHERE NEXT FOR LITIGATION FUNDING?
asks IAN MADEJ, Chief Executive Officer of Asertis
Having grown exponentially, litigation funding is now part of everyday life. When the convictions of 39 sub-postmasters were recently quashed, litigation funding enabled the civil litigation which led to them being compensated. The FT noted: ‘When it comes to challenging appalling behaviour by a deep-pocketed establishment entity, some private firepower is essential.’
Funders now regularly work with law firms – as seen in multiple actions against the German auto giants in the dieselgate scandal. Equally valued by claimants and law firms, it is also increasingly attractive for firms who want to generate revenue early on, rather than wait for a lengthy dispute to conclude.
New entrants will inevitably emerge, attracted by potential gains. But informed observers fear that some are overly attracted by uncorrelated and outstripped returns.
Trying to navigate an increasingly difficult investment space, they may rely solely on external counsel for investment advice, and make decisions based exclusively on information provided from acting advisers. But external advice is only a part of the jigsaw, and the battle hardened funders who seek to mitigate risk based on their own and others’ experience will inevitably come up trumps.
Should this occur, these new entrants may find market economics working against them. Over-leveraged and inefficient, businesses without a clear investment strategy may not survive.
Consolidation and specialisation
And the existing players? Banking and law show what might happen next. Bank mergers have proliferated since the 1970s. Among Europe’s lenders, consolidation is finally underway. It was a similar story in the legal business: domestic law firm mergers were commonplace in the 1990s, followed by a wave of transatlantic tie ups a decade later.
The same may happen with litigation funders. An indicator of what to expect came with the 2019 merger between Omni Bridgeway and IMF Bentham, described as ‘a strategic combination.’ Economies of scale, increased access to funds and an enhanced geographic footprint were obvious advantages.
Beyond consolidation at the top, niche funders will appear, focusing on specific sectors such as construction and shipping: a consequence of increased sophistication.
Some market players have already been pioneers: applying litigation funding across several jurisdictions and practice areas and trying to industrialise it. Although the market was not yet ready, such initiatives are prescient.
As the size and scale of key market participants evolves, some new entrants will become dominant players, providing lawyers and lay clients with greater choice and wider access. Now that litigation funding is (almost) completely mainstream, it will also enable funding to become more normalised.
Ian Madej is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Asertis the UK’s fastest growing Litigation Funder. He was a member of the team that listed Arrow Global PLC on the main market of the London Stock Exchange in 2013, having grown the business since its MBO in 2005. Having secured funding from Arrow Credit Opportunities SCSp, a €1.7bn European Fund, Ian founded Asertis in January 2020.
APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
Signature Litigation has promoted to partnership Becca Hogan (below) who had joined the firm in 2015 from Clyde & Co, where she was seconded to both Goldman Sachs and the FCA. She is currently advising a number of defendants to a $2 billion commercial litigation claim in the High Court which is listed for a 17 week trial next October. She is also investigating a number of possible group action claims.
Commenting on her promotion, Hogan said, “Becoming a Partner in such an inspiring firm is a very proud moment for me. I am very much looking forward to participating in Signature’s continued growth and success and in particular to grow Signature’s capabilities within group claims.” Partner Graham Huntley added, “It is very rewarding to be able to welcome as [a partner] talented lawyers who have developed within the firm. We are fortunate to be able to pursue our commitment to organic growth.”
Browne Jacobson has appointed as a partner Khalid Ghazi(below) in the IT and Complex Transactions team in its London offices. Ghazi joins from the Commercial Law Group (CLGp) of the Government Legal Department (GLD), the in-house commercial legal advisers to Government, where he was a Senior Lawyer. He had specialised in major projects for government departments, with a particular focus on technology transactions involving complex implementations and transformations.
Prior to joining the GLD, Ghazi trained and worked at international law firms Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and McCarthy Tetrault. “Having worked with many law firms in my government career,” said Ghazi, “I have long been impressed by Browne Jacobson’s performance on the most difficult, demanding and complex transactions where they have consistently provided a premium service and proved themselves to be top tier for this kind of work.”
THE BINGHAM CENTRE FOR THE RULE OF LAW in conjunction with the NEW YORK BAR
|The Rule of Law and Authoritarian Ascendance: the Nature and Scale of the Threat, and the Legal, Policy and Societal Responses to It Online Tuesday 8 June 2021 | 13.00 – 16.00pm (Eastern Daylight Time) 18:00 – 21.00pm (British Summer Time)|
|The rise of authoritarian or authoritarian-leaning governments and political parties is a trend affecting nations across the globe. in the United States, we have witnessed an undermining of democratic norms and institutions that previously constrained the reach of the Executive Branch. The steady erosion of these norms, coupled with an aversion to the rule of law, culminated in the January 6 assault on the United States Capitol. However, the U.S. is not alone in this struggle, with populist authoritarian movements gaining support across Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. These movements have their roots in ideologies spanning the political spectrum, from right-wing extremism in the United States and Europe to leftist movements in Latin America. They are commonly fuelled by disinformation, propaganda, and extremist hate speech spread on social media, and they manifest themselves in similar ways, including contempt for minorities and immigrants, digital repression, glorification of violent ideologies, and the undermining of independent judiciaries. These disparate political movements share many characteristics, most notably that they are antithetical to properly functioning democracies, they weaken human rights protections, and they are hostile to the rule of law.
What do we mean by the “rule of law”? How should the United States respond to these movements, both domestically and internationally? What tools already exist, legally or in terms of policies and programs, that can help to counter these anti-democratic and often violent movements? How big a threat does authoritarianism pose to western democracy in the long term? Domestically, is the current Congressional proposal for a Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation – in response to the January 6th insurrection – sufficient? Or are other law enforcement measures required? What is the role of the legal profession in defending and advancing democracy at a time of competing philosophies of governance?
Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
Philippe Sands, Matrix Chambers, University College London
Ilona Szabo, Igarape Institute
Ulysses Smith, Bingham Centre for The Rule of Law
Task Force on the Rule of Law, Chair, Stephen L. Kass
United Nations, Chair, Clayton T. Cheney
Council on International Affairs, Chair, Michael D. Cooper
Pricing and Registration
This event is free for members of the New York Bar and Non-Lawyers, and $15 for non-members.
MAJOR, LINDSAY and AFRICA
Major, Lindsey and Africa are running a webinar on Tuesday 8thJune from 16:00 – 17:00 on
‘Legal Digital Transformation: Meeting the Talent Challenge’
to explore whether the legal talent pipeline can keep pace with digital transformation post-Covid.
Chaired by Isabel Parker, Executive Director for Digital Legal Exchange, participants will hear from global leaders in different portions of the legal ecosystem, including:
- Macro socio-economic trends impacting the legal industry: Mark Cohen, Executive Chairman of the Digital Legal Exchange and regular Forbes commentator
- Strategic talent development: Duc Trang, Managing Director, Transform Advisory Services, Major, Lindsey & Africa
- A recruiter’s perspective: Deborah Ben-Canaan, Partner and the Senior Practice Leader for In-House Counsel Recruiting, Major, Lindsey & Africa
- The GC perspective:Bill Deckelman, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of DXC Technology
To attend RSVP via this link.
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Enjoy the week-end.